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People v. Huddleston

June 4, 2004

[5] THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
GERALD SCOTT HUDDLESTON, APPELLEE.



[6] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rarick

[7]  Docket No. 96367-Agenda 3-March 2004.

[8]  Defendant, Gerald Huddleston, was charged by information in the circuit court of Livingston County with three counts of predatory criminal sexual assault pursuant to section 12-14.1(a) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) (720 ILCS 5/12-14.1(a)(1) (West 2002)). Each count pertained to a separate victim. Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion seeking to have section 12-14.1(b)(1.2) of the Code declared unconstitutional, arguing that it violates state principles of proportionality and due process. Section 12-14.1(b)(1.2) mandates a sentence of natural life imprisonment when a person is "convicted of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child committed against 2 or more persons regardless of whether the offenses occurred as the result of the same act or of several related or unrelated acts." 720 ILCS 5/12-14.1(b)(1.2) (West 2002). The circuit court deferred ruling on the motion until after it had heard evidence in the case.

[9]  After the court found defendant guilty on all three counts, the court entertained arguments on defendant's motion and ultimately ruled that the statute is not unconstitutional "on its face." The court left open the question of whether the statute might be unconstitutional as applied to defendant until the court considered the evidence adduced at sentencing. Following the presentation of that evidence, the circuit court ruled that the statute was unconstitutional as applied to defendant in that it violates the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §11). The court sentenced defendant to consecutive 10-year sentences of imprisonment. The State appealed directly to this court. See 134 Ill. 2d R. 603. The sole issue we are asked to consider is whether the circuit court erred in holding section 12-14.1(b)(1.2) of the Code unconstitutional as applied to defendant. We hold that it did.

[10]   BACKGROUND

[11]   The information in this case, filed on May 9, 2002, alleged that defendant had committed an act of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, on or about March or April of 2002, in that he had placed his penis in the mouth of C.D., a child "nearly" 10 years old. The other two counts charged that defendant had committed similar acts with 10-year-old K.F. and D.R. on or about May 7, 2002.

[12]   On September 12, 2002, defendant filed a motion to suppress a statement he had made to the police and a motion challenging the constitutionality of the sentencing provisions of section 12-14.1(b)(1.2) of the Code on grounds that it violates constitutional principles of proportionality and due process. On October 31, 2002, the circuit court heard testimony and argument on defendant's motion to suppress. The evidence presented indicated that defendant initially denied having engaged in any sexual activity with the children and he continued to do so for "a period of time." However, he eventually acknowledged that he had engaged in acts of sexual penetration with the children, and he gave a statement to that effect. The court ultimately denied defendant's motion to suppress, ruling that defendant's statement was "both voluntarily and knowingly given." The court deferred ruling on defendant's other motion until it had heard the evidence in the case.

[13]   The matter was tried before the court on November 12 and 13, 2002. Detective Earl Dutko of the Livingston County sheriff's department testified that he and Detective John Johnson met with defendant on May 8, 2002, at defendant's home in Fairbury. They arranged for the defendant to meet with them at the Fairbury police department. At the police department, defendant was informed of his rights and apprised of the allegations against him. Defendant initially denied any involvement. At some point in the questioning, defendant was asked about a criminal "conviction" in McLean County in 1996. The presentence report indicates that defendant had pled guilty to public indecency in 1996. After a time, defendant acknowledged improprieties with the children and he agreed to provide a written statement of his activities. He declined to participate in an audio/video statement. Detective Dutko identified defendant's written statement, which was subsequently admitted into evidence. The statement, with appropriate modification to protect the privacy of the juvenile victims, reads, verbatim, as follows:

[14]  
"I Scott Huddleston do hereby attest that while in the course of my teaching duties I had inappropriate sexual contact with three of my students. After school I played a food taste game with them and placed my penis in their mouth [sic]. I placed my penis in [C.D.]'s mouth for a period of about 15 seconds. In [K.F.]'s for about 5 seconds. And in [D.R.]'s for 30 seconds. I used food for them to lick off. Food which I had left-over in my day's lunch. I stopped at the end of [D.R.]'s time because I became aroused and realized how wrong it was. I never would have physically hurt them. Never!! It was a stupid thing to do and I know that. All of the incidents occurred after the school day was over.
[15]  
I used pudding on May 7th with [D.R.] and [K.F.]. I cannot recall the food that I used with [C.D.]. I wish that I could tell them how sorry I am for betraying their trust. I need help with this problem. Please let them know that I was wrong and that adults can still be trusted.
[16]  
I had only intended to have them help me in cleaning chores in the room. Something snapped inside me and I went too far. I wish I could fix my transgressions. I don't know why I did what I did. I need help concerning this. My wife and son mean everything to me. I am sorry for disappointing them. I ask for everyones forgiveness.
[17]  
I never fantasized about doing this. It was a stupid thing that happened that I truly regret." (Emphases in original.)

[18]   Detective Johnson testified, corroborating what Detective Dutko said in his testimony. Johnson stated that defendant "eventually *** confided *** that he had in fact had sexual acts with the children." Johnson also noted that the officers had questioned defendant about a 1996 incident in his criminal history. The officers asked defendant what had occurred during that incident, and whether the conduct might have involved young victims.

[19]   C.D. testified that she was born on June 19, 1992, and, in the spring of 2002, she was in the fourth grade at Chatsworth Elementary in Livingston County. At that time, defendant was her art teacher. Sometime in March of 2002, defendant asked her to come to the art room. She was alone with defendant in the art room for about 15 minutes after school, and he suggested that they play a food taste-test game. Defendant seated her in a "really tiny" chair, along the same wall as the only door to the room, but at the other end of the room from the door.

[20]   After he blindfolded her, defendant gave her foods and she tried to guess what they were. Defendant first placed pickles in her mouth; she recognized the taste. He then gave her chocolate pudding. She testified that she could taste the chocolate, but she could not identify the type of food or the object it was on. Defendant did not place a spoon in her mouth; it was, rather, a cylindrical object. After she guessed incorrectly, defendant told her it was pudding, he took off the blindfold, and she left the room.

[21]   Sometime later, she spoke to the other two victims and they came to the consensus that "something weird" was going on. Subsequently, they mentioned the incidents to the lunch room teachers.

[22]   K.F. testified that she was born on October 7, 1991, and, in the spring of 2002, she was in the fourth grade at Chatsworth Elementary in Livingston County. At that time, defendant was her art teacher. Pursuant to defendant's designation, she was the helper in defendant's art class on May 7, 2002. She stayed after school to help clean up. Defendant told her if she did a good job she would get to play a taste-test game. After she had finished cleaning up, defendant placed her in a small chair back in the corner of the room, where she could not be seen from the door. He blindfolded her and the "game" began.

[23]   Defendant first gave her marshmallows and then pretzels to taste. She guessed correctly and was given Starburst candy as a reward. Defendant then put either pudding or peanut butter in her mouth. The object he used was not a spoon or a wooden stick or tongue depressor. Defendant was so close to her at the time that she could feel her breath back in her face. She felt "kind of weird." Defendant told her to open her mouth wider, so he could get the object into her mouth. K.F. said the substance she was given did not taste at all like pudding or peanut butter. She described it as "sour and salty and nasty."

[24]   When K.F. told defendant she was going to take off her blindfold, defendant said, "No, wait," and ran behind her. She heard defendant get a paper towel out of the towel dispenser and wipe something off. She also heard a sound like pants going together. It took defendant a while, but he finally told her she could take the blindfold off, get her Starburst, and go. K.F. talked about the incident with her friends afterward.

[25]   D.R. testified that she was born on April 17, 1992, and, in the spring of 2002, she was in the fourth grade at Chatsworth Elementary in Livingston County. At that time, defendant was her art teacher. On May 7, 2002, she was in the boys and girls club after school and decided to go to the art room to finish a project. Defendant was there and asked if she wanted to play a game. He took her to the back of the room, along the same wall as the door, and told her to sit down in a small chair. He then placed food in her mouth: first a marshmallow, then a graham cracker, then pudding. The pudding was not on a spoon or a wooden object such as a tongue depressor. It was on something long, straight and circular. The end of the object was round. It was bigger than a marker. D.R. swallowed the pudding from the object and it was then removed from her mouth. At that time, there was a knock at the door. Defendant said she could take off the blindfold and leave.

[26]   D.R. later told her teacher about the incident. In fact, D.R. said she thought something was not right when she went home that night. She thought the pudding did not taste right, and the object used to introduce it into her mouth was a part of a person, and should not have been in her mouth.

[27]   After D.R.'s testimony, the State rested. The defense rested without presenting evidence. The court found defendant guilty on all three counts. On January 2, 2003, prior to the commencement of defendant's sentencing hearing, the circuit court ruled that section 12-14.1(b)(1.2) of the Code is "on its face valid." The court left open the question of "whether that statute is a constitutional exercise of authority by the legislature as it is applied to this defendant and the facts of this case." The court reserved ruling on that issue until it heard the evidence at sentencing.

[28]   Just prior to the taking of testimony at defendant's sentencing hearing, the court acknowledged that it had received and examined the presentence report. The report was compiled from reports of the Livingston County sheriff's department, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and other sources available to the reporting probation officer. Given the magnitude of the issue before us, we will examine the report, and all other evidence pertinent to sentencing, in depth.

[29]   The report cites various oral statements defendant made that elaborate on the details of the crimes. For example, defendant admitted that he had put chocolate pudding on the end of his penis and K.F. had licked it off. Afterward, he turned around, wiped off the pudding with a paper towel, and then pulled up his pants. Later the same day, he again put pudding on the end of his penis and put his penis in D.R.'s mouth for about "thirty to sixty seconds." Defendant stated, "I think I got an erection towards the end." He admitted he told her: "open your mouth big" and "use your tongue." Defendant acknowledged he had previously placed his penis in C.D.'s mouth for "about fifteen or thirty seconds." Examination of garbage taken from defendant's classroom shortly after the incident revealed therein two paper towels with a brown substance on them that appeared to be chocolate pudding.

[30]   Defendant expressed sorrow for what he had done. As noted previously, when he gave his written statement, defendant voiced concern for the welfare of the children.

[31]   School secretary Stephanie Nagey was interviewed and told of an incident approximately one month before when she had gone to defendant's classroom to deliver a message to him at the end of the school day. Nagey found the door to the classroom locked. Defendant came to the door and stood in the doorway, seeming to block her entrance. Nagey noticed one of the victims (C.D.) in the room and Nagey wondered why she was still there at that time of day. Nagey noticed that defendant seemed "hurried," and she felt she had intruded on something and was not welcome there.

[32]   The presentence report indicates that defendant sent his wife and pastor to the school on May 29, 2002, to remove some of his personal items, and they were allowed to do so. However, defendant's pastor was not allowed to open defendant's locked filing cabinet. Subsequently, with the school principal's permission, defendant's filing cabinet was forcibly opened to further the investigation of this matter. Inside the cabinet, officers found female underwear, Playboy magazines, pornographic pictures, pornographic playing cards, a pornographic catalog, a video tape containing, in part, a pornographic movie, and 48 computer discs, 28 of which contained pornography. All the subjects depicted in the pornography were adults.

[33]   On a written information sheet, completed as part of the presentence investigatory process, defendant stated:

[34]  
"Your honor, I feel that a life sentence is too extreme. I would like the chance to prove to you and society that I can be rehabilitated. I have already lost my house, car, and my job. My wife and son mean the world to me. Please give me a chance to prove myself."

[35]   The portion of the presentence report dedicated to criminal history contains only one notation relevant to the issue before us. On October 5, 1996, defendant pled guilty to the offense of public indecency and received a sentence of 12 months' court supervision. The victim's statement in that case indicated that defendant, on three separate occasions, stood in the doorway of his apartment, which faced hers, and while nude "flopped his penis back and forth."

[36]   Defendant indicated that his wife and parents had been supportive through the prosecution of this case. He described his relationship with his parents as "good" and his relationship with his wife as "perfect, wonderful, amazing." Defendant told the reporting officer that he had an eight-year-old son by Trisha Webb, a previous paramour. Defendant stated he was paying child support as ordered until he was incarcerated on these charges. He denied ownership of any significant assets.

[37]   Defendant denied any past mental health treatment or any current mental health problems. He further denied any problems with alcohol or drugs.

[38]   The reporting probation officer noted, in conclusion, that defendant seemed remorseful in his statements to police. The officer observed, however, that, with regard to defendant's written comments to the court on the presentence information sheet, "no concern about the victims is noted."

[39]   The first witness to testify at defendant's sentencing hearing was Dr. Robert Chapman, a psychiatrist called by the defense. Chapman evaluated defendant at defense counsel's request. He spent two hours with defendant. Chapman testified that defendant suffers from adult attention deficit disorder (ADD)-characterized by "impaired attention concentration, impulse control and judgment"-and an unspecified personality disorder with obsessive-compulsive and dependent features. Chapman believed the clinical evidence was insufficient to make a diagnosis of paraphilia and/or its subcategory, pedophilia. Chapman indicated that a diagnosis of paraphilia would apply to an individual "who suffers over a period of at least six months intense recurring sexually deviant arousal or behavior" that "impairs the person's function in most areas of their life."

[40]   Chapman testified that ADD was more likely relevant to the commission of these offenses than the personality disorder because a person with ADD suffers "some degree of impairment of impulsivity and judgment and difficulty controlling inhibitions." Chapman noted that ADD is manageable and treatable. Chapman stated his opinion that defendant presented a minimal risk of reoffending so long as he was not in a "position of authority, power or trust with prepubescent females."

[41]   Under cross-examination, Chapman admitted there might be "a lot" of positions of "authority, power or trust" from which defendant would have to be restricted in order for a minimal risk assessment to apply. The prosecutor asked Chapman if he had taken account of certain behavior that exhibited planning and orchestration in the commission of these offenses. When Chapman said he had, the ...


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